YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF... BY LAUREN PURJE
Art
Writing
Summary
YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF... is a therapeutic to read for all creative thinkers. This book is the perfect gift for your one super artsy friend, to show them that you are at least trying to understand the creative struggle.
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User Rating 5 ( 4 votes)

Of all the stereotypes that plague artists, none is further from the truth than the misconception that the life of an artist is easy. In reality, most people who consider themselves artists are not wildly famous or financially successful. Many of them cannot support themselves on their art alone, and so they work thankless day jobs just to fuel their passion. Most importantly, all of them have spent years perfecting their craft, whatever that may be. Furthermore, unlike most careers, every artist must define their own standards of practice and measures of success. Because of this constant self-evaluation, choosing a career in a creative field can be not only financially precarious, but also emotionally exhausting.

YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF… collects the comics that Lauren Purje created for HYPERALLERGIC and which portray the aforementioned struggles of an aspiring artist. Dedicated to “the artsy-fartsy folk,” each comic in this collection presents a vignette narrated by Purje. The comic strips are a mix of real and imagined scenarios and chronicle her experiences as someone trying to make it in the art world. Purje’s work doesn’t depict the life of an artist as an easy or glamorous one. Instead, she focuses on why artists continue to create despite their ongoing struggles against the exclusivity of the art world, the general public’s misunderstanding of their work, and themselves.

YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF...

A significant number of the comics in YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF… explore art theory in one way or another. In a general sense, the comics touch on the search for a definition of art and what purpose art should serve in an ideal society. It becomes clear that Purje believes both the process of creating and viewing art should have a positive effect on the world.

Along this vein, Purje uses her comics to express contempt for modern art, specifically abstract art that seemingly requires little skill on the part of the artist. Given abstract art’s notoriety for being inaccessible to the uninitiated, this style does not meet Purje’s personal criteria for effective art. Unfortunately, many within the art world disagree with Purje’s assessment, viewing abstraction as the pinnacle of artistic achievement. Purje’s disdain for abstraction is coupled with an equal disenchantment with the bourgeoisie politics of the art industry. Abstract art is viewed as “fine art,” while Purje’s illustrations often are not, making her art less profitable and less popular in certain circles. She finds herself stuck between the art-insiders who look down on her use of illustrative style and the general public who sometimes fails to grasp her work. As scathing as Purje’s critiques of the art world (and ART FORUM) can come across, it comes with an acknowledgment that she too is part of the capitalistic machine that is the art industry.

READ: If you love Lauren Purje’s work, you’ll  love Erin Nations’ semi-autobiographical comic, GUMBALLS!

Purje’s conceptual exploration of art is not just a critique of the state of modern art. She also explores how her beliefs about art and its purpose shape her artistic practice. Purje recounts the frustration of having one’s art be underappreciated and misunderstood. She wonders whether or not her work is really making a difference in the world. Ultimately, despite its accessibility and relatability, YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF… feels extremely distinctive to Lauren Purje’s artistic practice, self-doubt, and personal triumphs.

YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF...

Each comic in YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF… is a reflection of Lauren Purje’s experiences, ranging from the general to the extremely personal. For example, in one strip, she reflects on how many famous artists throughout history have suffered a spectrum of mental illnesses, from the mild to the debilitating. In a different strip, she refers to the fact that she has social anxiety, which makes leaving her home to do even the most mundane tasks a stressful experience. In a way, there is something extremely affirming about how Purje’s general anecdotes often connect to her personal anecdote. Although her specific experiences as an artist might be unique to her, the reader can easily sympathize, and even at times empathize, with Purje. By sharing them with an audience, we realize that her experiences are universal and valid.

YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF… is an outstanding example of how comics, as a medium, is the perfect format to express complex ideas in a way that is accessible to a wide audience. The world of fine art can be intimidating, but Purje manages to make the modern life of the artist relatable to readers of all backgrounds. Without Purje’s cartoon figures, the tone of the writing would be far too serious. Without the text, the drawings would be far too cutesy and lighthearted. These two elements work perfectly together to create a drab but hopeful tone as Purje expresses her thoughts and experiences. Comic strips specifically are extremely approachable, since almost anyone who has ever come into contact with a newspaper or the internet has experience with the format. By utilizing the strip format, Purje can present non-linear anecdotes that do not require any prior knowledge of Purje or her previous work to understand.

READ: Interested in comics about art? Then give THE COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF COMICS a chance!

As I imagine these comics were semi-therapeutic for Purje to create, YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF… is therapeutic to read. It’s extremely refreshing to see someone openly discuss even the most mundane of their personal battles. Although Purje’s experiences primarily reflect those of a visual artist, YOU MIGHT BE AN ARTIST IF… is a relatable collection for all creative thinkers. This book is the perfect gift for your one super artsy friend, to show them that you are at least trying to understand the creative struggle. Purje’s collection also provides insight into the art industry for people who might otherwise be turned off by art theory. You don’t get art? Well, that’s okay because Purje doesn’t get all of it either. Ultimately, by reading Purje’s reflections on her experiences as an artist, the reader walks away with not only a better understanding of what it’s like to be an artist, but also the knowledge that their opinions on art are just as valid as anyone else’s.

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